Voice of the Faithful FAQs
Q. Who is Voice of the Faithful?
A. Voice of the Faithful is a lay organization formed in
January, 2002, in response to the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic
Church. The organization began as a "listening session" of 30 parishioners
in the basement at St. John the Evangelist church in Wellesley,
Massachusetts. Just a few months later, Voice of the Faithful has
over 25,000 registered supporters throughout 40 U.S. states and
21 countries worldwide, as well as more than 150 Parish Voice affiliates.
The organization's exponential growth has been fueled by the communication
opportunities of the VOTF Web site and
by the crying need for dialogue and change felt among mainstream
Catholics across America and throughout the world.
VOTF is keenly aware of the importance of building bridges to restore
trust between the laity and the hierarchy. We are committed to working
within the Church, with active lay involvement in the governance
of temporal affairs including finances, personnel and administration.
We do not seek to change Church dogma. We seek to build up the Church,
not tear it down.
VOTF is committed to providing a safe forum where all Catholics,
whatever their views on specific issues, can participate in a conversation
about the challenges of our church. Some call this a "centrist view."
We call it that, too; we also call it "inclusive" in imitatio
christi, and seek to present this model to the Church hierarchy
as an alternative to their culture of secrecy, deceit and arrogance.
Q. What is Voice of the Faithful's mission?
A. Our mission is "to provide a prayerful voice, attentive
to the Spirit, through which the Faithful can actively participate
in the governance and guidance of the Catholic Church."
Q. What are Voice of the Faithful's goals?
A. Our goals are:
To support victim/survivors of clergy sexual abuse
To support priests of integrity
To shape structural change within the Catholic Church
Q. What does Voice of the Faithful mean by
A. In this time of crisis and betrayal, all Catholics are
in pain. But none are feeling this pain more acutely than the survivors
of clergy sexual abuse themselves. Survivors have told Voice of
the Faithful that this is a time when it is utterly important to
be present for survivors; to listen; to raise awareness; and to
provide a safe forum for survivors to tell their stories and express
their feelings publicly as a first step to truth, reconciliation
and healing. We are supporting survivors through listening sessions,
healing masses, prayer, fund-raising, monitoring of bishops, self-education
and public witness. Voice of the Faithful supports victim/survivors
within the parameters of a healthy relationship with our Catholicism
and the primacy of own consciences.
Q. What does Voice of the Faithful mean by
supporting priests of integrity?
A. As we all know, the overwhelming majority of Catholic
priests are faithful to their vocation and vows, living lives of
genuine holiness and service. Faithful priests are currently suffering
personal pain and public humiliation from the heinous acts of their
offending brother priests and their own superiors. Voice of the
Faithful is building bridges to these priests who in many
cases are our pastors, our confidants, our teachers, and our friends.
We are reaching out to priests both as individuals and through their
own budding organizations, which are struggling to find their voice.
We pray that our vocal support for priests of integrity who
are frequently oppressed, silenced and intimidated will help
them ultimately to stand in their truth and "be not afraid."
Q. Why does Voice of the Faithful feel entitled
to claim a place at the table for the laity in the governance and
guidance of the Catholic Church?
A. The wise and eloquent documents of Vatican II provide
a very clear mandate for the laity's right and, indeed, responsibility
to become active in the guidance of the Church as "the people
In addition, simple morality cries out for the laity to become
involved, to right the grievous wrong that has afflicted our Church.
The hierarchy that failed to protect our children cannot be trusted
to continue exercising unchecked control over the persons, property,
money and fate of our church. VOTF believes that baptized Catholics
must, as a matter of conscience, assert our right and responsibility
to participate in the decision-making processes of the whole Catholic
Q. What does Voice of the Faithful feel
will be the effect of bringing laity into the governance structure
of the Church?
A. The Church hierarchy can learn much from the Catholic
laity. We have intellectual, emotional and spiritual contributions
to make and knowledge to impart on myriad real-life issues. These
include, but are not limited to: human sexuality, women's rights,
democratic processes, and the contextual roles of science and history
in the healthy life of the Church.
Q. Does Voice of the Faithful have a hidden
or open "agenda"?
A. Voice of the Faithful does not have a hidden "liberal"
or "conservative" agenda for Church reform. This would be impossible,
since our members hold a diverse representation of views.
We do, however, have an agenda for change. The crisis in our Church
shapes our conviction that the Catholic laity must stand up and
force change of the clerical culture of secrecy, deceit, arrogance
and abuse of power that have brought us to this shameful pass.
Q. Is Voice of the Faithful schismatic
A. No. Voice of the Faithful is firmly committed to bringing
about meaningful reform from within the Catholic Church. We have
no intention of, or desire to, found a new church.
We are also in no way heretical. We have no interest in challenging
Church dogma. We stake our claim to participation in the governance
and guidance of the Church based on the clear teachings of the Second
Q. Does Voice of the Faithful feel that
dialogue with the U.S. bishops is worthwhile? Are you seeking such
dialogue? Under what terms?
A. VOTF wishes to engage our bishops in dialogue, but we
will not negotiate regarding: " Our right to exist " Our right to
be heard " Our right to free speech as American Catholics
Furthermore, we feel that, in the interest of morality and justice,
bishops must be held accountable for their past behavior. Bishops
who covered up criminal acts must be held accountable. No bishop
should be allowed to stay in office if it is shown that he engaged
in the intentional misrepresentation of facts regarding sexual abuse.
In addition, we feel that it is necessary, but not sufficient,
for bishops merely to state that practices will change in the future.
We expect the bishops to vigorously enforce their commitments, including
proactive cooperation with civil authorities to create a system
that protects the public.
Q. Does Voice of the Faithful think that
trust can be restored between the Catholic laity and its leadership?
If yes, how?
A. We expect that American bishops now recognize that they
face a new burden of proof. No longer can the bishops demand our
trust without earning it. We want to work with the bishops, but
to earn back our trust, they must demonstrate that they deserve
The laity must continually review and monitor the performance of
bishops. VOTF has developed a Bishop Monitoring System that rates
how effectively each diocese is meeting publicly stated commitments.
This system can be adapted for parishes, financial management, pastoral
achievements, and engagement with the laity.
Q. How does Voice of the Faithful intend
A. Voice of the Faithful intends to build an effective chapter
in every parish throughout the world. We are even now creating vibrant
models of local action through our "Parish Voices" initiative.
We will create a national Voice of the Faithful operation to bring
about our growth with learning materials, training programs and
a Speakers' Bureau of experienced members. In true apostolic tradition,
members will become Voice of the Faithful emissaries for future
development. Their efforts will help Voice to evolve from a "virtual"
organization to a permanent, influential entity.
We will develop and foster a deeper understanding
of our faith; of the institutional church; of canon law; of Vatican
II. We are organizing study groups in local Voice chapters, as well
as nationally, to examine the adequacy of enforcement procedures,
to study issues such as the meaning of "structural change," and
to design various forms of lay involvement.